Benalla families and carers to get greater autism support

22 October 2018

Benalla families with autistic children will get greater support under a $50 million plan unveiled by The Nationals.

The seven point plan will see funding set aside to provide resources to local community support groups for children and families with autism.

The announcement comes as Shadow Minister for Disabilities Tim Bull visited town this week at the invitation of Euroa MP and Nationals deputy leader Steph Ryan to meet with EdSpace.

“I really wanted Tim to see the great work EdSpace are doing, particularly through the development of their social enterprises.

“We are very fortunate to have a dedicated autism school in EdSpace as well as local support groups where people can come together for a cup of tea and a chat.

“Local families caring for children with autism are stretched to the limit and many are desperate for respite and support. Many have raised with me the need for early intervention, more financial support to help meet education needs and the need to support parents and carers,” Ms Ryan said.

Mr Bull said The Nationals’ investment would also see a 24-hour autism helpline established to help families and a review of the current eligibility criteria for students who have disabilities.

“Importantly, we will change the funding reappraisal dates back from the end of year 6 to the end of year 7 so that children who are on the spectrum receive the same level of support during their transition to secondary school,” Mr Bull said.

“These year 6 appraisals often result in a reduction in funding in the year students transition to secondary school with its new environment, new faces and often lots more students. This will allow them to take the same level of support from primary school into their first year of secondary school.

“We will also review the criteria used to assess students including scope for more flexibility around criteria for qualification, and eligibility to attend specialist or mainstream schools, with flexibility on the IQ criteria.

“There are huge gaps when it comes to support and services from people and families affected by autism and the services that do exist can be very expensive.”

The Nationals’ plan also includes $4 million over four years to re-establish the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre’s Early Diagnostic Clinic for children aged 0-3 who may have an autism spectrum disorder, and to support OTARC’s ongoing research at La Trobe University.

The clinic can diagnose children with autism years before they can be assessed by public diagnosis clinics, which means they can access critical early intervention therapies much sooner.

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